Mike Neaverson: New tractor prices make me hanker for old kit

I have about as little interest in new tractors as I do in taking horse riding lessons, or operating a cattery.

If a machine has tyres of an adequate dimension and sufficient ponies to rotate them, I couldn’t really care what stable it has bolted out of.

As I get older, what I actually care about is how much my lower back creaks when I get out of it, and how much the wallet has to creak before I can get into it. 

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About the author

Mike Neaverson
News opinion writer
Mike Neaverson is a potato grower and independent agronomist from South Lincolnshire. After a spell in farm management, he set up his own business in 2017 and is also heavily involved with his family’s 300ha arable farm.
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And on this subject, while grain and commodity prices have slumped considerably from their record highs, a quick scan of the classifieds would suggest that the prices of new and nearly-new farm machinery are not following suit. 

Never has the gap between a trade-in and a new machine been so great.

As fleeting as 2022 grain prices may have turned out to be, the main thing keeping prices for arable machinery buoyant appears to be the taxman peering over the stable door, neighing for a big wedge of the bumper ’22-harvest haystack.

As a potato grower, having to pay a lot of tax has not been of great concern over the past couple of years, with a fellow grower jokingly saying that he should ask his accountant to change the nature of his business to a “not-for-profit organisation”. 

So what to do? Perhaps we should distribute the workload over a fleet of appreciating modern classics from my youth?

While nostalgia is great, I’m just trying to imagine the conversation I’d have with Jack, our main operator, explaining how I’ve chopped his air-suspended Valtra in for a 1980s Track Marshall to spend 2,000 hours a year rattling around Lincolnshire in. 

Having conducted the budgeting exercise again this winter in the context of record prices, I think, on balance, we will keep our main tractor – which now does the lion’s share of the hard work – running on the modern machinery treadmill.

All the others can age gracefully on lighter duties.

What it has also proven to me is that, when it comes to farm machinery replacement policies, there are so many ways to skin a cat that perhaps I should have started that cattery after all.